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In trying times, employees lean on one another for support

The power of community is everything for Francis Lichauco.

Every morning, he reaches out to his friends, family and Best Buy colleagues via text to share how he’s doing, quotes that motivate him and gratitude for the blessings in his life.

“I like to think it inspires people, but they also inspire me with their support and compassion,” Francis said.

An HR manager for omnichannel teams, Francis lives in California and began this morning ritual in March 2021 to connect with people during an isolating time. The COVID-19 pandemic was in full force, yet Francis had an additional challenge: He’d been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and had virtually no immune system.

As he began to undergo chemotherapy treatment, he was confined to either his home with his family, or — due to hospital policies — alone at the Stanford Medical Center.

“All I knew was that I had to fight,” he said. “My mental state helped me through it, I think. I wanted to let people know how I was doing and give them a little inspiration.”

Finding connections to lean on

During his months of treatment, Francis said the support from his team and other Best Buy colleagues was incredible.

“Everyone wanted to know how I was doing, and I was able to use a wide array of benefits that helped me and my family tremendously,” he said. “It’s really obvious I work for a company that cares about me.”

Shortly after Francis was well enough to return to work, a coworker introduced him to Shane Martin, an account executive for Best Buy for Business. Shane had recently been diagnosed with lymphoma, and the colleague was hoping Francis and Shane could connect on their experiences.

While Shane and Francis live 2,000 miles apart and have never met each other in person, they’ve closed that distance through having a deep understanding and empathy for each other’s situation. Both are fathers — Shane became a new dad just a few months before his diagnosis — and both rely on their faith and positive thinking to see them through the difficult times.

Shane says talking with Francis and being real about the situation makes the burden of undergoing treatment a bit lighter.

“It’s good to have someone to talk about the normal stuff, to have someone who’s in it or someone who has been,” Shane said. “You can’t really relate unless you’ve gone through something similar.”

Expanding the support

Now that he’s in remission, Francis has begun to build an even stronger support system within Best Buy. As a manager in HR, Francis was well-versed on the questions and assistance employees need navigating benefits and policies during life changes. After his own experience taking a medical leave of absence and going through all the challenges of managing a critical illness and work, he sees an opportunity to make these transitions easier for employees.

“It’s about taking a second look at what we already do and asking ourselves, ‘What are the extra things we can do that make this a better experience?’” Francis said.

One of his ideas is to help establish additional support systems by partnering with the Best Buy disABILITIES Employee Resource Group (ERG). The ERG is one of many at Best Buy, with a focus on supporting and educating employees on all seen and unseen disabilities. Francis, Shane and the disABILITIES ERG hope to create one space for employees to navigate Best Buy benefits and establish a built-in group of people who can relate to serious illness and support each other.

“It’s an ongoing effort,” Francis said. “It’s about creating a seamless experience and a space where people truly can bring their whole selves to work.”

Shane, who’s also now in remission, says learning to ask for help can be tough at first, but it can avoid additional stress while fighting and managing a critical illness.

“It’s not heroic to suffer in silence,” Shane said. “Before this, I’ve never been in a position of need, but [cancer] humbles you really fast. Some people need to hear it’s okay that you need help.”